|Carissa, Natal Plum - Carissa grandiflora (Eckl.)A.DC.|
Flower and fruit
Carissa grandiflora (natal plum):
leaf, flower, thorns, and fruit
Ripe fruit, seeds removed
Acrid latex exuding when picked unripe
Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Leaves. KiHana Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
New leaf growth
Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum) flower.
Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Flowers and leaves. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii
Fruit, flower and leaves
Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Flowers fruit and leaves. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii
Large spines which are forked at the end, sometimes exceeding two inches in length
Trunk is short and woody
Carissa macrocarpa (fruit and flowers). Location: Maui, Kahului
Carissa macrocarpa variegata (Natal plum). Flower and variegated leaves.Iao Tropical Gardens of Maui, Maui, Hawaii
Natural growth habit
Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Box sheared. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii
As a tiered tree
As a rounded bush
Flowering hedge in Jerusalem
Carissa grandiflora (Eckl.) A.DC.
Natal plum, common carissa, amantungula, KwaZulu
Carissa grandiflora (E. Meyer); Arduina grandiflora, E. Mey; A. macrocarpa Ecklon 8
Karanda, Carissa carandas; num-num, C. bispinosa 9
Native to the Northern South African province of KwaZulu/Natal 3
USDA hardiness zones
Bonsai; foundation; screen; border; mass planting; container or above-ground planter; fruit; espalier; ground cover; superior hedge 1
6-10 ft (1.8-3 m)
4-10 ft (1.2-3 m)
Dense and rounded, wide canopy 7
Vigorous, spreading, woody shrub with abundant white, gummy sap 6
Multi trunked or clumping stems; opposite thorns on the stem that branch into two sharp points
It responds well to close pruning and is easily kept at any size 3
Evergreen; glossy, dark green foliage; opposite/subopposite; terminal spine; 2-4 in. (5.1-10.2 cm) 1
White, summer flowering; pleasant fragrance 1
Oval berry; red, thin skin; fleshy; 1-3 in. (2.5-7.6 cm); suited for human consumption; persists on the plant 1
All year, peaking Sept. through Nov.
USDA Nutrient Content
Full sun to light shade
Clay; sand; acidic; alkaline; loam 1
Aerosol salt tolerance
Soil salt tolerance
Damage temp. 29°F (-1.67º C) 6
3-6 ft (0.9-1.8 m)
Usually not a problem 1
Invasive potential *
Not a problem species (un-documented)
Long-term health usually not affected by pests; susceptible to root rot when plants are overwatered 1
All parts of Natal plum are poisonous except for the ripe fruits. Even the seeds within the fruits are said to be poisonous. Natal plum should not be planted close to pedestrian traffic because of its sharp spines. 3
Carissa from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates
Carissa grandiflora Natal Plum, Common Carissa from the University of Florida pdf
Carissa 1984 from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Carissa from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
The Carissa from W. Popenoe's book Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
Natal Plums Num Num from Eat the Weed and Other Things Too
Carissa Botanical Art
Southern Africa (KwaZulu/Natal)
The carissa is widely grown in Florida as an ornamental hedge. The plant is tough, can tolerate unfavorable conditions and will grow on barrier islands. The glossy, dard green foliage and beautiful white flowers provide visual appeal. The crimson fruit, which can be of very good quality, should not be permitted to go to waste. The carissa deserves recognition as an outstanding dual-purpose plant. 9
The plant blooms most profusely in early spring, but produces a few flowers throughout the year. The flowers bloom singly or in small terminal cymes at the end of the branches.
The flowers are 30mm-50mm (1½" to 2") in diameter, white and fragrant. The 5 petals are twisted to the right. 5
Some plants bear flowers that are functionally male, larger than normal and with larger anthers, and stamens much longer than the style. Functionally female flowers have stamens the same length as the style and small anthers without pollen. 6
Fig. 10. Flower buds forming
Fig. 11. Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Leaves and flowers. Shopping Center Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii
Fig. 12. Carissa macrocarpa (flowers). Location: Maui, Shopping Center Pukalani
The fruits of the carissa (Carissa grandiflora) are oval or round and vary in size and shape. A typical fruit is approximately an inch in diameter and one and a half inches long. The skin of the fully ripe fruit is bright crimson streaked with darker red; it is thin and bruises easily. The flesh is deep red or crimson with white mottling. In the center there are approximately twelve small brown flat seeds.
The fresh fruit has a mild, slightly pungent flavor, is slightly granular in texture, and is somewhat astringent. When bruised, broken, or cut, the fruit and branches exude a white latex. This substance is harmless, except that it may be irritating if it comes in contact with the eye. 2
The fruit matures in approximately 60 days, yielding most of its fruit in the summer. Carissa is not usually available in commercial markets. It is most often grown in South Florida. 2
The fruit production peaks around Thanksgiving and some people favor it over cranberries. If picked too soon, the flesh will exude very acrid white latex (Fig. 4).
Fig. 16. Fruit (unripe) of a Big num-num at the TUT campus
Fig. 18. Ripe fruit and unripe fruit showing latex
The selections 'Fancy', 'Gifford' and 'Torrey Pines' are said to be of good fruit bearing quality.
While the carissa flowers and fruits all year, the peak period for blooming and fruiting is May through September. The 5-pointed calyx remains attached to the plant when the fruit is
The carissa must be fully ripe, dark-red and slightly soft to the touch to be eaten raw. 6
If the fruit is harvested too soon, the flesh will exude acrid white latex. 9
In its homeland, the carissa is pollinated by small beetles and hawk-moths and other night-flying insects. Various degrees of unfruitfulness in America has been attributed to inadequate pollination. Some seedlings are light-croppers, but others never bear at all. It has been found that unproductive plants, apparently self-infertile, will bear fruits after cross-pollination by hand. 6
By seed, expect germinatation in about 2 weeks, but the seedlings grow very slowly at first and are highly variable. Vegetative propagation is preferred and can be done easily by air-layering, ground-layering, or shield-budding. Cuttings root poorly unless the tip of a young branchlet is cut half-way through and left attached to the plant for 2 months. After removal and planting in sand, it will root in about 30 days. Grafting onto seedlings of the karanda (q.v.) has considerably increased fruit yield. 6
Seedlings may begin to produce fruit in 2 years; cuttings earlier. 1
Along our coastal areas, carissa has been used for a hedge since it is highly salt-tolerant and can be planted in exposed locations with little chance of being damaged. One disadvantage is the shrub's large spines (Fig. 19) which are forked at the end, sometimes exceeding two inches in length. Because of its spiny nature, carissa has long been used as a privacy hedge or people-stopper, since an attempt to penetrate a hedge of carissa is rare. It should not be used in areas where small children frequent. While most people use carissa as clipped hedges forming a dense screen, it is not uncommon for it to attain a height of 20 feet at maturity. 4
Natal Plum will tolerate a variety of soils and exposures and only needs light pruning. It makes a nice, full foundation shrub. While it thrives in full sun, natal plum can adapt to fairly heavy shade and requires only moderate watering and fertilization. Plant on three to six-foot centers for a hedge or mass planting, closer for the compact cultivars. 1
Only light pruning is required unless one would prefer a clipped hedge or an espalier (Fig. 26).
A standard, well-balanced fertilizer suffices except on limestone where trace elements must be added. 6
The carissa benefits from periodic irrigation, although rainfall is usually adequate to sustain the plant. 9
Die back is common. Spider mites, thrips and whiteflies, and occasionally scale insects, attack young plants, especially in nurseries and in the shade.
A number of fungus diseases have been recorded in Florida; algal leaf spot and green scurf caused by Cephaleuros virescens; leaf spot from Alternaria sp., Botryosphaeria querquum, Fusarium sp., Gloeosporium sp., Phyllosticta sp. and Colletotrichum gloeosporioides which also is responsible for anthracnose; stem gall from Macrophoma sp., Nectria sp., Phoma sp., Phomopsis sp., and both galls and cankers from Sphaeropsis tumefaciens; dieback caused by Diplodia natalensis and Rhizoctonia solani; thread blight from Rhizoctonia ramicola; root rot resulting from infection by Phytophthora parasitica and Pythium sp. 1
The carissa must be fully ripe, dark-red and slightly soft to the touch to be eaten raw. It is enjoyed whole, without peeling or seeding, out-of-hand. Halved or quartered and seeded it is suitable for fruit salads, adding to gelatins and using as topping for cakes, puddings and ice cream. 6
The carissa may be eaten fresh but it is more enjoyable when cooked. The cooked juice and pulp have an unpleasant milky-red appearance but become an attractive bright red when cooked with sugar. The jelly has a lovely red color with a delicate, characteristic flavor suggestive of raspberry. The sauce, made by straining or sieving the stewed fruit and cooking it with sugar, is preferred by some to cranberry jelly. 2
The white latex in the fruit forms a rubbery, sticky ring around the pan in which the carissa are cooked. To remove, rub with a piece of dry paper towel or with a coarse bit of cloth soaked with salad oil. Do not use steel wool or an abrasive powder as these make the sticky substance more difficult to remove. This fruit may be used canned or frozen; as jelly or preserves; in salads, sherbets, and sauces; or as a juice for punch. 2
South Florida Tropicals: Carissa (Natal Plum) from the University of Florida pdf
Natal plum is the perfect hedge plant. Its dense foliage makes it a good screen, and its thorns make it an effective barrier as well. 3
The carissa macrocarpa is a ground cover: Carissa macrocarpa Dwarf Natal Plum from the University of Florida pdf
Forked spines, about 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) long, arm the branches and the ends of the twigs. 3
The botanical name for that family is Apocynaceae which is Greek for “keep it away from the dog” meaning it kills them easily. It does us, too. Nearly all parts of the Natal Plum are poisonous, like the Oleander, except for the red-ripe fruit. 7
Carissa comes from the Sanskrit word “corissa” the local name of one the the species. Macrocarpa is Greek for large fruit. 7
The Carissa from the Tropical Fruit News of the Miami Rare Fruit Council
List of Growers and Vendors
1 Gilman, Edward F. "Carissa grandiflora Natal Plum, Common Carissa." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is FPS107, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication Oct. 1999. Revised May 2007. Reviewed Feb. 2014. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
2 Simonne, Amy, Bobroff, Linda B., Cooper, Anne, Poirier, Sandra, Murphy Mildred, Osward, Mary Jo, and Procise, Chris. "South Florida Tropicals: Carissa (Natal Plum)." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is Fact Sheet FCS 8522, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Publication date: July 2004. First published as SS-HEC-12, May 1993. Revised Aug. 2007. Reviewed Nov. 2010 and Nov. 2013. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
3 Christman, Steve. "Carissa macrocarpa." floridata.com. 4 Dec. 2000. Updated 9 Nov. 2003. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
4 Joyner, Gene. "Carissa". rfcarchives.org.au. Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. June 1984. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
5 Goebel, Roger. "Carissa". rfcarchives.org.au. Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. RFCA Capricornia Branch. June 1984. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
6 Morton, J. "Carissa." hort.purdue.edu. Fruits of Warm Climates, p. 420-422. 1987. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
7 Deane, Green. "Natal Plums Num Num." eattheweeds.com. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
8 Wunderlin, R. P., B. F. Hansen, A. R. Franck, and F. B. Essig. "Carissa macrocarpa synonyms." florida.plantatlas.usf.edu. 2017. Atlas of Florida Plants. [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), USF Water Institute.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.
9 Boning, Charles R. Florida's Best Fruiting Plants- Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Pineapple Press, Inc. sarasota, Florida. Print.
Fig. 1,14 Carr, Gerald,D. Autocarpus altilis Moraceae. N.d. botany.hawaii.edu. University of Hawaii, Botany Department, Manoa Campus Plants. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 2 Wmpearl. Carissa grandiflora (natal plum): leaf, flower, thorns and fruit. 2008. commons.wikimedia.org. Public domain. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 3 JMK. Cross section of a ripe fruit of a Big num-num at the TUT campus, Pretoria. 2013. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 7 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 4,13,18,24,26,27 MR. Carissa macrocarpa. N.d. toptropicals.com. Top Tropicals Tropical Plant Catalog. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 5 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Leaves. KiHana Nursery Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. 2011. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 4.0). Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 6 Sample, Jane. New leaf growth on Carissa macrocarpa. 2015. JPG file.
Fig. 7,8 Jackson, Karen. Carissa Series. 2014. JPG file.
Fig. 9 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Flowers and leaves. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii. 2006. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 4.0). Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 10,20,21 Kwan. Carissa macrocarpa, Natal plum. 2009. natureloveyou.sg. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 11 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Leaves and flowers. Shopping Center Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii. 2007. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 4.0). Web. 7 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 12 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (flowers). Location: Maui, Shopping Center Pukalani. 2007. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY 3.0). Web. 7 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 15 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Flowers fruit and leaves. Haiku, Maui, Hawaii. 2009. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 4.0). Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 16,17 JMK. Fruit of a Big num-num at the TUT campus, Pretoria. 2013. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 7 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 19 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa thorn. Kahului, Maui. 2002. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 4.0). Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 22 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (fruit and flowers). Location: Maui, Kahului. 2001. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY 3.0). Web. 7 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 23 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Flower and variegated leaves. Iao Tropical Gardens of Maui, Maui, Hawaii. 2012. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 4.0). Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
25 Starr, Forest and Kim. Carissa macrocarpa (Natal plum). Box sheared. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii. 2006. starrenvironmental.com. Under (CC BY 4.0). Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 28 Lazaregagnidze. Flowering hedge in Jerusalem. N.d. tropical.theferns.info. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Fig. 29 Species Distribution Map: Carissa macrocarpa. N.d. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. florida.plantatlas.usf.edu. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
* UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas
Published 3 Jan. 2015 LR. Last update 10 Apr. 2017 LR